justice reform group has ordered a critical report on police use of facial
composite software to generate likenesses of suspects.
The police need to meet many demands when
dealing with a witness. Through a Cognitive Interview, a witness is normally
required to describe the events of a crime and the people involved. A facial composite is a visual likeness of a
perpetrator to a crime typically formed by the assembly of individual facial
features. During a criminal investigation, a witness is usually encouraged to
provide a verbal description of the perpetrator so that a technician skilled in
the use of a composite system (composite operator) selects facial features that
match this description. Once the results have been shown to the witness, they
can then suggest amendments to achieve an optimal likeness. The normal
retention interval to interview is one to two days after a crime has taken
place (e.g. Frowd et al., 2012). The facial description provided by the witness
can be created using a variety of techniques and systems.
There are many different types of facial
composite software’s such as PRO-fit, Photofit, E-FIT, EvoFIT, EFIT-V and
Identi-Kit which the police use to try and capture a suspect. These software’s have
many specialists and downfalls that is important to consider. There are many
types of evidence that can be used in a criminal investigation. This can be
from the crime scene itself or from a witness.
Mechanical systems such as Photofit and Identi-Kit were introduced
to allow less-artistically skilled practitioners to be able to create
composites suitable for use in a police investigation 9781315805535. With these types, witnesses
could build a face by selecting facial features (eyes, nose, mouth, hair, etc.)
that are printed on transparencies or jigsaw-like pieces. Computer-driven
systems have largely replaced the mechanical techniques such as artist sketch
as software systems were designed with a large range of facial features, and
these features could be more-accurately sized and positioned on the face (Frowd, 2012).
Considerable research has shown
that we process familiar and unfamiliar faces differently (e.g. Ellis et al., 1979; Young
et al., 1985). For familiar faces, the internal features are the most
important: the region containing the eyes, brows, nose and mouth. For faces
seen a few times, or just once, the external features are more salient,
especially the hair and face shape, and these tend to dominate our perception.
Consequently, we may misidentify an unfamiliar person when their hairstyle
changes. Frowd et al.
(2007b) have also found that the external features of facial composites
are better likenesses of a target than internal features.
its release in 2008, licensees are seeing huge benefits. Police Professionals
have reported an increase greater than 100% in useful intelligence (Police Professional, IPJ, April 2008)
and a study of its performance in the field involving more than 1000 interviews
resulted in an 40% naming rate (Driver and Rowbotham, E-FIT user conference 2009). Police
Forces using EFIT-V have also reported continuous correct naming rates up to 10 times the
average success rate using the ‘feature’ system. However, this can be
contradicted by research conducted recently in 2000.
Davies and his colleagues found an average naming
level of 49% from participants constructing E-FIT composites. However, in order
to achieve this performance, participants were both familiar with the target
and had a photograph available to refer to. This suggests that although it has
a success rate the result does not mirror real life.
PRO-fit is a computer program also considered
to be a “feature” system due to emphasis on individual features. Composites are
produced in greyscale, as colour does not seem to promote more identifiable
composites overall (e.g.
Frowd et al., 2006).
in a forensic setting, it is permissible
under police guidelines (ACPO(S),
2009) to attempt construction of a feature composite (incl. Sketch) even
if a witness cannot describe one facial feature (e.g. a nose). The idea here is
that construction of the face as a whole is likely to trigger recall of a
previously undescribed feature. However such guidelines can also result the
composite software to potentially lead to the wrong suspect. Practitioner uses
the description given to them to select appropriate characteristics from the
program e.g. short nose. However this is not reliable when it is being
contributed to the criminal justice system as it is knowingly inaccurate.
Relying on the evidence of Super recognisers
solely on the evidence of super recogniser can lead to miscarriages of justice.
Super can also sometimes be wrong and
relying on this as evidence could mean that there is possibilities of wrongful conviction.
A question of at what point can someone actually be classified as a super
recogniser can occur, therefore for the criminal justice system should not rely
solely on super recogniser or results created by composite software’s and
instead look for multiple sources of evidence to collaborate.
the criminal justice system can face when relying on super recognisers is that
the jury may have a strong view that just because someone is presented as a
expert witness and has been told that they are a super recogniser, the jury may
be willing to believe this as evidence. The imprison that will have been
created in court is just because someone has a particular type of expertise
that it is seen as solid reliable evidence.
Verbal overshadowing refers to situations in which describing a nonverbal
experience, such as the appearance of a face, impairs subsequent recognition.
In the original demonstration of VO, participants viewed a video of a robbery
with a salient perpetrator and were later asked to recognize the perpetrator in
a photographic lineup, including seven similar distractors. After viewing the
video, half the participants spent 5 minutes writing a description of the
robber, while the other half performed an unrelated control task. Remarkably,
participants who verbalized the face were significantly less likely to
correctly identify the target face among others in the lineup.
summary, a large amount of research has shown VO to be a pervasive effect
across many types of visual memory and other areas of perception. A recent
meta-analysis has shown VO to be a relatively small, but reliable effect on